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Diamond Dogs: Stricklin announces starting rotation and talks about the talented freshmen class
Georgia's Ike Cousins head coach Scott Stricklin announces the starting rotation for opening weekend series against Evansville
Georgia senior lefty C.J. Smith (Photo from http://www.GeorgiaDogs.com)
The Georgia baseball team will open up their season with a four-game series against Evansville starting on Friday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. The series will take place at home in Athens at Foley Field.
Last season, the Bulldogs’ season ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. In some polls, Georgia finished the season ranked No. 2 as the team was heading down to Gainesville to take on No. 1 Florida to open up conference play.
In the offseason, UGA lost several key components from the 2020 squad, including starting pitchers Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox. Hancock was drafted No. 6 overall to the Seattle Mariners and became the highest-drafted Bulldog in over 30 years. The San Diego Padres drafted Wilcox in the third-round and signed for a record $3.3 million but have since been traded to the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
Losing those two veteran arms stings, although Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin believes he can replace them. On Wednesday, he announced the starting lineup of all lefties for this weekend’s series against Evansville. Returning starter C.J. Smith will take the mound on Friday against the Purple Aces. Freshmen southpaws Jaden Woods and Luke Wagner will get a chance while redshirt freshman Charlie Goldstein rounds out the rotation.
"I don’t know if we’ve ever done that and three of them are freshmen (Luke Wagner, Jaden Woods, Charlie Goldstein),” Stricklin said about the starting lineup. “Liam Sullivan and Ben Harris were the others that were in contention to start, and they’re both left-handed. It’s just the way it worked out. In the past, we’ve had a lot of power right-handed arms like Robert Tyler, Tony Locey, Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox. This year as Coach Kenny likes to call them, we love those wrong-handers, and they’re hard to hit. C.J. Smith is going to start it off for us and gives us a veteran presence.”
Georgia’s two preseason All-America pitchers in senior lefthander Ryan Webb and sophomore righthander Jonathan Cannon will miss the opening series while recovering from an illness. The Bulldogs will also be missing two more pitchers in redshirt sophomore Garrett Brown and sophomore Will Childers, who both are out for the season due to injuries.
Stricklin said that the Bulldogs will have to rely on their freshmen arms, especially earlier on in the season. According to PerfectGame.com, Georgia signed the No. 11 ranked class in the 2020 recruiting cycle, which features five pitchers and 10 skilled position players.
"There’s a lot of talented freshmen,” Stricklin said. “We really like Corey Collins, Fernando Gonzalez and Park Harber, those three position players are going to play a lot. In the future, there’s Garrett Spikes, Dwight Allen, Trippe Moore, Caleb Ketchup, those guys are talented players just behind some veterans. We’ve got a lot of depth in the arms too. It’s a really good class, and they have a chance to be pretty special. It’s a mature group."
Redshirt junior outfielder Cole Tate is excited to see the youngsters take the field.
"They came in the fall and worked really hard and showed they could hit and pitch, especially after we had a couple of pitchers go down,” he said. “They have confidence in themselves. I think they are going to contribute really well. The pitchers threw a lot of strikes. That’s all you can ask for them to throw strikes, and let the defense work. The hitters showed they could hit for power too."
Stricklin said he will learn a lot about his team this weekend.
“We’re going to have to see some toughness,” he said. “When you play four games in a weekend, especially against a team like Evansville, they have a lot of experience. Their lineup and most of their pitching rotation is back. We have a talented bunch, but we also got some young kids out there. We’re going to be facing some men across the diamond in the Purple Aces."